Former theist and now self-avowed atheist Dan Barker, who is co-president of the Freedom of Religion Foundation, promoted a “Beware of Dogma” campaign using billboards that also included the line “Imagine No Religion,” borrowed from John Lennon’s atheist national anthem “Imagine.” I wonder if the FRF’s call for everyone to “beware of dogma” includes the dogma of atheism which is funded by my tax dollars in government schools.
Recently we’ve come to learn that Lennon was embarrassed by his early political and social radicalism. Fred Seaman, who worked with Lennon from 1979 to his death on December 8, 1980, claims that the music legend “was a Ronald Reagan fan who enjoyed arguing with left-wing radicals who reminded him of his former self.” Seaman continued:
“I also saw John embark in some really brutal arguments with my uncle, who’s an old-time communist… He enjoyed really provoking my uncle… Maybe he was being provocative… but it was pretty obvious to me he had moved away from his earlier radicalism.
“He was a very different person back in 1979 and 80 than he’d been when he wrote Imagine. By 1979 he looked back on that guy and was embarrassed by that guy’s naivete.”
In a series of interviews published after his death, “[t]he man who famously called for imagining a world with ‘No religion’ also jettisoned his anti-theism,” Jordan Michael Smith of The American Conservative writes**.** “‘People got the image I was anti-Christ or antireligion,’ he said. ‘I’m not at all. I’m a most religious fellow. I’m religious in the sense of admitting there is more to it than meets the eye. I’m certainly not an atheist.’”
Not only did Lennon reject atheism, he also rejected extreme forms of evolution. He instinctively knew that there was something special about humans and different about the animal world even if he did not how the theory of evolution is argued. ((Evolutionists do not claim that humans evolved from monkeys but that humans and simians evolved from a common ancestor. It’s possible that Lennon knew the difference but rhetorically used “monkey-to-man” evolution for rhetorical effect. His dig at six-day creationism shows that he was aware of the competing position.)):
“Nor do I think we came from monkeys, by the way,” he insisted. “That’s another piece of garbage. What the hell’s it based on? We couldn’t have come from anything — fish, maybe, but not monkeys. I don’t believe in the evolution of fish to monkeys to men. Why aren’t monkeys changing into men now? It’s absolute garbage. It’s absolutely irrational garbage, as mad as the ones who believe the world was made only four thousand years ago, the fundamentalists. That and the monkey thing are both as insane as the apes standing up suddenly.”
What happened to Lennon? Why did his views change? He grew up. He matured. He was willing to look reality in the face without blinking and say, I was wrong.” The man who imagined a world with “no religion” and “no possessions” left an estate of more than $275 million, “not bad for one who referred to himself as an ‘instinctive socialist,’ for one who believed in the abolition of ‘all money, police, and government.’” ((David A. Noebel, The Legacy of John Lennon: Charming or Harming a Generation? (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), 11.)) His early flirtation with the theory of socialism was naive. ((Maybe he was persuaded by the lyrics from fellow-Beatle George Harrison’s “Taxman_._” Its lyrics attack the high levels of progressive taxation taken by the British Labour government. At the income level of the Beatles, it was 95 percent. In the January 22, 1981 Playboy interview (Lennon was interviewed in September 1980 by David Sheff), Lennon admitted that he “threw in a few one-liners to help the song along.” In a later version of the song, Harrison added “If you’re overweight, I’ll tax your fat.”)) He knew that sending money to poor nations was counter-productive.
When it was pointed out that a Beatles reunion could possibly raise $200 million for a poverty-stricken country in South America, Lennon had no time for it. “You know, America has poured billions into places like that. It doesn’t mean a damn thing. After they’ve eaten that meal, then what? It lasts for only a day. After the $200,000,000 is gone, then what? It goes round and round in circles.”
It’s time that atheists and liberals follow Lennon’s lead and also grow up. Atheism and socialism are literal dead ends. They are destroyers of people and societies. If there is no God, then Lennon’s death at the hands of Mark David Chapman was the result of the survival of the fittest, the fittest being Chapman.
We don’t have to imagine what our world would be like without religion. Vladimir Lenin (1870–1924) gives us a window into such a world:
Our propaganda necessarily includes the propaganda of atheism. . . . We shall now probably have to follow the advice Engels once gave to the German Socialists: to translate and widely disseminate the literature of the eighteenth-century French Enlighteners and atheists. ((Vladimir Lenin, “Socialism and Religion” (1905): http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1905/dec/03.htm))
The French “enlighteners” worshipped reason. “[T]he success of the physical and other sciences in England in the seventeenth century,” Robert Conquest observes, “gave the French intelligentsia the idea that everything could be determined by Reason—in whose name the Revolution was made—with the ‘Romantic’ input from Rousseau as part of the meld.” ((Robert Conquest, Reflections on a Ravaged Century (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1999), 4: http://www.wwnorton.com/catalog/fall99/conquest1.htm)) What was the result? The guillotine and blood in the streets. All together now, “Imagine no religion. It’s easy if you try.”
The atheism that spawned Communism was very reasonable and led to the deaths of 100 million people in the 20th century. When I made this statement in response to an email I received, I was met with this challenge: “Who are these high priests of atheism exactly? Name them and quote them. Then I want to know how many people were killed in what country during what period exactly and who killed them, within a million or so. I need you to account for all 100 million Gary, or close to it. I have history books in three languages and they don’t mention a word about atheists killing anyone.”
Lenin, Stalin, Cambodia’s Pol Pot (remember the “killing fields”?), Romania’s Nicolae Ceauşescu, China’s Mao Zedong, North Korea’s Kim Il Sung — all atheists and Communists — committed well-documented atrocities that led to the deaths of mega millions. The authors of The Black Book of Communism (1999) offer the needed documentation that the e-mailer demanded me to produce. Tony Judt of the New York Times writes of the book:
An 800-page compendium of the crimes of Communist regimes worldwide, recorded and analyzed in ghastly detail by a team of scholars. The facts and figures, some of them well known, others newly confirmed in hitherto inaccessible archives, are irrefutable. The myth of the well-intentioned founders — the good czar Lenin betrayed his evil heirs — has been laid to rest for good. No one will any longer be able to claim ignorance or uncertainty about the criminal nature of Communism, and those who had begun to forget will be forced to remember anew.
From The Black Book of Communism he can move on to Robert Conquest’s Reflections on a Ravaged Century (1999) and The Great Terror (1990). Conquest writes:
Organized irreligion in the twentieth century committed atrocities on a scale that the fiercest religious wars never approached. The scientific racism of Nazi Germany killed forty million and attempted genocide against Europe’s Jews. The scientific socialism of the Communist countries killed a hundred million (and still counting) people around the globe. As the Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky has noted, people in the West routinely invoke the Spanish Inquisition as an example of religious horror. And they are right to do so. But the Inquisition, in the course of three centuries, and after legal procedures of a sort, killed fewer people—probably around three thousand—than the Soviet Union killed on an average day. ((Robert Royal, The God that Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West (New York: Encounter Books, 2006), xvii.))
It is significant to note that “after 1949 when the communists took control of China, the first new text introduced to all the schools was neither Marxist nor Leninist, but Darwinian.” ((Michael Pitman, Adam and Evolution (London, England: Rider & Company, 1984), 24.)) With Darwin, all things are permissible. For a fleeting moment, Communism was seen as the new god that would save the world. But even here, disillusionment set in as the logical extension of its materialist assumptions were worked out consistently.
On the atheist foundation of Marxist Communism, see Religion in Soviet Russia: 1917–1942 (1942) by N. S. Timasheff, the doctoral dissertation The Role of Atheism in the Marxist Tradition (1979) by David B. T. Aikman, Storming the Heavens: The Soviet League of the Militant Godless (1998) by Daniel Peris (a summary of the movement can be found here), and the three-volume A History of Marxist-Leninist Atheism and Soviet Anti-Religious Policies by Dimitry V. Pospielovsky (1987). For the most comprehensive study of the philosophical roots of Communism, take a look at Francis Nigel Lee’s Communist Eschatology (1974). There are 120 pages of chapter notes with 30 to 50 notes per page in the 1100-page volume.
Barker’s Freedom From Religion Foundation has a lot to live up to. The billboard people in Grand Rapids, Michigan, refused to display the atheist advertisement. I think they should have done it. Churches should have countered with a billboard that reads:
Imagine no Religion? We already did — 100 million dead!